Monday, October 30, 2017

Random thoughts on various subjects

It has been quite some time since I've last blogged. My life has been a flurry of activities since my third specialist diploma programme commenced around two weeks back. So far, lessons are interesting and challenging. But this time round, there is more internal turmoil within me. Intrinsic motivation is somehow quite diminished and it takes considerable effort to muster my energy level. I guess I must be quite burnt out.

I have been accumulating blog topics in my mind. As I am not able to expand on each individual idea to a full-length blog post, I will be using this blog post as a cathartic tool, so don't mind the hodgepodge-ness of the topics.

1). I have always thought that investing in a private company (be it equity or debt) is quite cool. Before learning about investing, I wonder how people are able to source out such lobangs and participate in them. These opportunities seem to be more arcane and alluring, more so than their publicly-listed counterparts. Is it alluring because such opportunities are rare for ordinary folks like me? I guess so.

You could create a brokerage account and plonk in some money on publicly-listed entities. However, you can't do that for private companies. You need to know the right individuals before doing so.

A couple of weeks back, I was given this opportunity to invest in a private company's debt. Nope, I did not invest.

Looking back, I am quite surprised at my nonchalance. I would have expected myself to be quite eager for such opportunities. Former yield-pig me would surely have been tempted by the 18% per annum yield. Now? I know such yield is fraught with potential dangers. Further, it will eat up 40% of my war chest. Plus, I do not know much of the industry.

2). Opportunities come to those who are prepared. My team at work has expanded significantly. One of my new colleagues shared that a friend from another research cluster is looking for a freelance IT guy. As I am the "residential IT guy" (am I? data analyst/researcher = IT guy?), I was offered this opportunity. Well, the remuneration is worth salivating (1.5 years my salary), but I know I am not up for the task.

My existing colleagues were quick to hop on the bandwagon once they heard about the remuneration package. They thought I was up for the task and wanted to freeload on my effort. Visibly disappointed after learning the truth, they commented that the IT industry is highly lucrative and is something worth learning. Oh really?

I started learning R programming approximately 3 months before starting to learn about investing. That's like exactly 3 years of hard-knocks, frustrations, and banging my head against the metaphorical wall. And I barely scratch the most superficial surface of statistical programming.

Well, some people think they can suka suka learn IT and earn millions. Not easy bro/sis.

3). Compared to other industries, I find that the social science sector is quite forgiving and familial. Yes, there are still subterfuge and covert operations, but, generally, the environment is quite benign. I have seen my fair share of workplace shenanigans from fellow millennials. In other sectors, these shenanigans would get them either blacklisted or fired.

Hence, it came as a surprise that an individual from my previous company was terminated from her job. Her misdeed? She and another colleague was caught sleeping at their desks during lunch hour by the guy who sits at the top of the organization chart.

Meanwhile........other millennials such as my existing colleagues remain utterly in the dark as to what could potentially happen with just a single misstep at work........

4). The silver lining is that said lady who was terminated was saved by my boss. There was an opening in my current organization and my boss roped her into our project and assigned her under me.

I do not know what to make of this. In a way, this is also an indication that I am progressing in my career, right? An added responsibility (first time for me, in fact) to learn how to manage people that is under me.

Then and again, aiyo, I'd rather much do my own work and mind my own business. But I'll rise up to the challenge and take it in my stride.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Makin' money thru spinnin' things

I think this will be a more "fun" post than usual?

Every once in a while, I will come across posts from other financial bloggers emphasizing the importance of developing a side hustle to diversify one's income streams. Out of curiosity, I have searched the net for viable side hustles. The answers are almost always the same. Be a writer. Be a celebrity blogger and earn through page views. Create an e-business. Create apps. Man! This is hard! I can suka suka pull off any of the above with ease meh? 

Then I looked around me and observe other more non-conventional methods to earn money. Normally, they are hobbyists who, in the process of enjoying their hobbies, hone their expertise in their craft to a sufficiently high level. I have a friend who started her own online bakery business after taking her baking skills to the next level. I have another friend who started her own online florist business after realizing she has the passion and gift in that particular area. And then there's photographers who are able to immortalize beautiful memories on film.

I have enough on my plate already, but there's no harm thinking what I could potentially do right? A half-baked idea which I had was to consider starting a statistics tutoring/consulting business. I like that idea, but seriously, is there a non-bookish hobby that I am sufficiently skilled in and could monetize if I so wanted to?

Then, one day, it hit me! Donkey years back in secondary school/poly, a significant part of my life revolved around yoyoing. Yes, that roundish thing that is connected to your finger by a string. I've worked as a yoyo performer before and have been invited to perform for kids on several occasions. 

Is it all just up-down, up-down, and loop the loops? Nah. Enjoy the following 5 yoyo videos (roughly 3 mins each) featuring the 5 yoyo divisions:

1A division: Single yoyo, string tricks
2A division: Two yoyos, looping tricks
3A division: Two yoyos, string tricks
4A division: Offstring (yoyo not attached to string. Yes, yoyo could fly off)
5A division: Freehand (yoyo attached to string, but string not attached to finger but to a counterweight such as a dice. Yes, yoyo, string, and dice could fly off)

Featuring Hiroyuki Suzuki, 1A division World Yoyo Champion for 2012. He has won 1st in 1A multiple times, but I think this is one of his best performance. Some people call him the world's fastest player. And look at his horizontal tricks. Mind-blowing!

Featuring Shu Takada, 2A division World Yoyo Champion for 2012. I just love his infectious enthusiasm for yoyoing. Great stage presence too!

Featuring Hajime Miura, 3A division World Yoyo Champion for 2016. During my time (LOL! I sound so old), 3A was still an underdeveloped field. Well, things have changed after almost a decade.

Featuring Rei Iwakura, 4A division World Yoyo Champion for 2016. Multiple times world champion for 4A. I also love his great stage presence and confidence.

Featuring Takeshi Matsuura, 5A division World Yoyo Champion for 2012. One of the younger world champions.

Hope you all enjoy the videos!

Now, for some random yoyo trivia:

1). For those observant enough (hardly anyone though!), they may notice that Unintelligent Nerd has a scar on his face that came as a result of a yoyo smashing into his face. It happened while he was performing and there was blood all over the place. He went to A&E to had it done up.

2). Not enough evidence that yoyos are dangerous? Unintelligent Nerd's metal yoyos have cracked the floor tiles at home and have smashed the ceiling lights before.

3). It's not the yoyo; it's the player. Unintelligent Nerd has observed kids who got their parents to buy them a $100+ yoyo and couldn't do anything with it. And then sell it off to others for 5 bucks. -_-

4). A $100+ yoyo? Seriously?!?!?! So ex for a toy! Errrr, by the way, there are $1000 yoyos too. It's marketed as aircraft grade titanium, precision-weighted, gold-plated, etc.....etc....

5). I think I qualify as a collector also? I think I have more than 50 yoyos lying somewhere around the house. My most expensive yoyo cost like $150? 24K gold-plated some more. Shit! Time to get shot by other frugal financial bloggers liao. Toh long! Give chance, I recant my non-frugally ways liao! It's been years already!

6). Meanwhile, those national masters/national grand masters of yoyoing use their old-school wooden yoyos. No metal to increase yoyo weight to spin longer. No ceramic ball bearing to reduce friction. No precision-engineered yoyo halves to increase stability, etc. Just think of them as the Uncle CW of yoyoing (e.g. over 50 years of yoyoing experience and contribution to the yoyo community). Just give the world champions in the yoyo videos above a noob old-school wooden yoyo and let's see who is the real McCoy. (Okay lah, to be fair, they will still do exceptionally well with a noob old-school wooden yoyo).

Hope you all enjoy this post!

(Okay, time to wear my anti-flame suit with regards to point 5 above >.<).

Sunday, October 1, 2017

PhD Prostitutes

A couple of days back, I saw the following article being circulated on my social media feed:

This is not new to me. I have read articles on the increasing amount of student debt in the United States. Students leverage up to pursue a degree in order to live the American Dream. Once they have gotten their coveted degrees, they are faced with the sickening realization that this is not enough. Masters! PhDs! You need MOAR to edge out against your competition.

But are post-graduate qualifications really worth it? It depends on your major. In certain spheres on the internet, humanities and social science majors receive a lot of flak for their choices. They pay hefty tuition fees, acquire critical thinking skills (which is debatable), and receive job offers that do not commensurate with the tuition fees they paid. Instead of receiving prestigious job offers in Academia, they are left destitute as interest upon interest of debts pile on.

Articles, such as the above, highlights the cracks of the humanities and social sciences fields. They provide people with a glimpse of the dark underbelly of said fields. I remember trying to find the contact of a US researcher in my previous job. What I got when I threw in the researcher's name into Google were not academic publications. Instead, it was an interview where she shared that her temporary contract jobs in Academia paid her the same amount as her previous job as a grocery store helper. Minimum wage! Now with the added burden of paying off her student debts!

Even in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields, there is this difficulty to secure jobs for PhD holders. There is a thread in the BIGS World Facebook Group where Azrael of The Tale of Azrael commented the following:

So what am I to do, seeing that I am certain that research is my calling? Bide my time and build my funds. Think, and think again of the ramifications of each decision. Build up my dividend stream in a deliberate manner. And (Very Important!).

(Eh? First time Unintelligent Nerd recommend against personal development/professional upgrading? Must be he "sot sot" liao!)